In our series Our Movement Monday, we talk with Texas Democrats across our state about their work and the challenges facing their communities.
The Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) was founded in 1973 in the Texas House of Representatives by a small group of lawmakers of Mexican American heritage for the purpose of strengthening their numbers and better representing a united Latino constituency across the state. MALC is the oldest and largest Latino legislative caucus in the United States.
We sat down with Darcy Caballero, the Policy Associate at the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, to discuss her passion for policy and advocacy for voting rights.
How long have you worked at MALC, and what all does your position entail?
I am a Policy Associate at the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, and have been there for a little over a year — I do just about everything. During the legislative session, I focused largely on voting rights issues, the David Whitley fiasco, and the 2020 census, and organized a voting rights panel featuring several Texan experts to discuss the future of voting in Texas. I also help with social media management, graphic design, and am a research resource for our team and our caucus members.
I’m sure that there’s plenty of people who ask you this, but how did you get your foot in the door with this line of work? Did you enter the political ecosystem with the goal in mind that you wanted to focus on voting rights?
I come from an organizing background. My first job ever was as an organizing intern for the Annise Parker re-election campaign in 2013, and then was an intern for the Travis County Democratic Party beginning in 2014, and they hired me as a Volunteer Coordinator in 2015, where I essentially did a first run of a voter registration program that was fully launched during the 2016 General Election.
In that time, I learned a lot about voting rights, the ways in which voters are suppressed, and elections as a whole, and just developed a passion for it because of how much I knew about it. I’d known since high school I wanted to get involved in politics but was not really sure what I wanted to be doing, so I feel like I’ve hit a couple of different parts of the political world and have found a passion for advocacy and policy.
I know that you have a passion for young folks to get politically involved, especially among the Latinx community. Why this community?
Latinos are soon to be one of the biggest voting blocs in the state. As a Latina, my parents voted in presidential elections, but never really thought much about politics, and tended to focus more on us and on working for a better life for us. I’ve seen my generation have the opportunity to get the education and the opportunities that our parents have worked so hard for, and we have seen the injustices that our parents thought was normal and we want to do something about that.
Our generation is more politically involved than those that came before us, and we want to right the wrongs that have been done to our community and to other marginalized communities. The work that I and my colleagues do is always done with the effort to expand voting rights – if we have more people who want to vote, we need to ensure that we take down existing barriers to voting and make sure no new barriers are erected.
Do you think it’s important now more than ever for young people to get out and vote?
Of course it is. For as much as we talk about politics on Twitter, we better be making the effort to vote – it’s the chance we get to tell the government how we feel about it, and even send the strong message that we disagree with the direction it’s headed in. Young people, and particularly young people of color, are dealing with more and more obstacles to upward mobility – the first step in correcting that is by ensuring those that are elected do not take us for granted and view the issues that young people face as real and legitimate, and not just brush us off.
As you’re well aware, not everyone in our community can vote (such as undocumented immigrants and people with felonies). How would you encourage those who can’t vote, to still get politically involved?
There’s nothing illegal about informing yourself on the issues and spreading the word. The power of one on one conversations to change hearts and minds is inimitable. People are more likely to listen to you if you talk to them like a normal person – undocumented folks still send their kids to public school, still have to go to the doctor, and still pay taxes – the laws enacted by our elected officials still impact those that can’t vote, so talking to individuals that can vote or volunteering to block wall and phone bank for a candidate or a party, can still have a massive impact on elections.
What do you think Texas can do better, regarding strengthening voting rights for communities of color?
There’s plenty our state can do at many different levels. Legislators can start by drawing fair districts in 2021, require polling locations on college campuses, can require enough polling locations in communities of color, and enact online voter registration. Counties can allow countywide polling locations and create maps that show where there are unregistered voters for individuals who would like to register people in their precincts.